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Israel: IDF chief of staff criticised for challenging US over Iran

January 28, 2021 at 11:30 am

IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi makes a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel. [Amir Levy/Getty Images]

The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Aviv Kochavi, has been criticised for challenging the US administration over rejoining the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reported on Wednesday.

“I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones,” Kochavi told a conference organised by Tel Aviv University’s National Security Institute. “We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year. The government will, of course, be the one to decide if they should be used. But these plans must be on the table, in existence and trained for.”

Israel’s most senior army officer warned that US President Joe Biden should not rejoin the 2015 JCPOA. “I want to state my position, the position that I give to all my colleagues when I meet them around the world: Returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement or even to an agreement that is similar but with a few improvements is a bad thing and it is not the right thing to do.”

Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi said that Kochavi would do better to talk behind closed doors. “Anyway, I do not recommend confrontation with the Americans through the media.” Ashkenazi is himself a former chief of staff.

READ: Israel, America and the Iranian nuclear deal crisis 

In Yedioth Ahronoth, military correspondent Yossi Yosha said that not everyone at the conference where Kochavi made his comments were happy about them. “What will they understand in Tehran when they hear the IDF chief of staff saying this? They will say that he does not have any attack plans [now].” The Americans, he added, will say that Kochavi is calling on them to stop working.

“The one who has plans should prepare them secretly or hint to them when he wants to send a certain message,” concluded Yosha, who added that Kochavi has called for US pressure “and tells the Iranians that we are weak.”

A former head of military intelligence and senior defence ministry official denounced the chief of staff’s remarks as counterproductive. “What are we getting from this? You excoriate the administration in the United States that has barely been in its position for a week instead of having a quiet negotiation to see how to limit the damages of the deal and get some compensation for the IDF,” Amos Gilad told Radio 103FM.

“The question isn’t what the chief of staff believes behind closed doors and what positions he takes. The moment the chief of staff says things that are so harsh, that contradict the position of the new American administration, this could be seen as defiance. This is not something that the chief of staff needs to do.”